A Conversation With Greg Garrison
It’s his laugh that sets the tone.
It comes out quickly and often. It’s a friendly laugh, one that brings you along instead of making you wonder who the joke’s really on. It’s a laugh resulting from years of good times, weathered by inevitable challenges.
Greg Garrison is the kind of stand-up guy who goes through life seeing good things, seeing things that make him laugh. He’s no Pollyanna. As a prosecuting attorney, he’s witnessed plenty of bad, the seamier, dark side of what makes human beings do wrong.
Like the scales of justice, the current Hamilton County Prosecutor represents, it’s a balance.
Garrison became the prosecutor here after cruising through last year’s primary and general elections. He unseated three-time incumbent Lee Buckingham by a wide 59-41 percent margin and then won over Democrat Jessica Paxson 57-43. At age 74, he was starting a new job, one that could include multiple terms?
“No,” he shot back. “When this term is up, I’ll be 79 years old. You don’t even buy green bananas when you’re 79.”
Garrison grew up in Indianapolis in a home where his father was a doctor.
“He delivered about 900 babies in his life,” Garrison said. “He made house calls. The first baby he delivered was in a house with no electricity – and he didn’t get paid. I remember one of the farmers walking up our drive with a separated shoulder. Dad laid him on the pool table and said ‘this is going to hurt,” and whop, he put that shoulder back in place. The farmer thanked him and walked on back to go back to work.”
His mom stayed at home as moms did back then. Life was good for Garrison and his brother Chris.
“We had steaks on the grill at night. My grandmother stayed with us for a while.”
Garrison learned to play piano, not that he had much choice.
“It was either learn that or sell me off to the circus,” he quipped. “I was a pain in the ass. She (mom) wouldn’t admit that, but it was true.”
His family attended the Methodist Church and belonged to Heather Hills Country Club after it was built in 1960. It later became Maple Creek and is noted for being the first 18-hole golf course designed by the famous Pete Dye.
“I played a lot of golf,” he remembered. “I’d play 36 holes a day on the weekends. We had a lot of good times.”
After graduating from Warren Central, and like a lot of others in his family, Garrison headed for IU. He graduated there in 1970 and the IU law school in ’73. Of course, details of his now-famous career after that are well documented.
In 1992, he successfully prosecuted boxer Mike Tyson for rape in an Indianapolis courtroom. That led to gigs with CBS News, Fox News, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, 48 Hours and others. His quick wit and affable personality far outlasted any notoriety he gathered through his work on the Tyson case. He was asked to comment on other high-profile court proceedings like the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
One thing led to another and Garrison began a radio career at WIBC that lasted two decades, 1997-2017, to the day.
“You have to understand, after I was done with O.J., I had a much different footprint.”
Visitors to his office today can see a Marconi award hanging on his wall, evidence of his high-quality work in radio.
“I think I was too dumb to be scared,” he said. “Besides, I’ve got such a face for radio.”
Does he miss it?
“Only for a minute,” he shoots back. “I don’t miss that red light. It’s a merciless mistress. My producers often had to stall because I don’t always show up on time.”
Stalling usually meant a longer version of his opening music, the energetic and lively theme from the 1960 smash Magnificent Seven by Elmer Bernstein.
“It said what I wanted to say – saddle up; let’s get something done here.”
Garrison has been getting something done for quite a while. The conservative Republican has a long-time friendship with former radio host, Indiana governor and vice president of the U.S., Mike Pence. He and brother Chris created a successful law practice that Chris still works at today. He’s made four trips to Israel, three as guests of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis.
When talking with a visitor about those trips Garrison keenly observed, “There are two versions of you, the you before the trip and the you after.” He adds that he tells people his boss was a Jewish carpenter.
Garrison said that he ran for office at this stage in his life because friends, family and law-enforcement encouraged him to. He repeatedly says it’s the last stop, career wise.
“When this is done, I want to enjoy some things,” he said. “Look, there’ve been times in my life when we were fat. There have been times when the receptionist made more than me. That’s just life as an attorney, as an entrepreneur, as any small business owner.”
The lines on his face are evidence of those times. But the crow’s feet around Garrison’s eyes . . . tells you that whatever comes next will involve plenty of laughter, too.
Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically in The Times. Timmons is the chief executive officer of Sagamore News Media, the company that owns The Noblesville Times. He is also a proud Noblesville High School graduate and can be contacted at [email protected]